(Formally "Plan V: A Van Dwelling Blog", when I lived in a 1978 Dodge Xplorer 228 Class B motorhome van)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Utility trailer

I could have swore I posted a pic of my utility trailer.. but it seems not. So here we go. The first pic below is what it looked like when I bought it. It had a fixed axle with no suspension (!) which I didn't realize when I went and looked at it at night with a flashlight, and bought it at that time.

I have about as much in it as it would cost to buy a new rail side trailer, but it's built heavier duty than store bought ones and it suits my needs perfectly. Having a tail gate ramp and raised mesh sites, it provides a bit more security and protection for the contents while being lighter and less of a wind drag than an enclosed trailer.

It has a new axle, leaf springs, tires/rims, fenders, lights, one new light bracket, and a new paint job using $1 cans of black gloss spray paint.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Starter relay

I loaded up the van to go shopping and do some other stuff today.. got in and it wouldn't start. The darned relay went bad. It took it almost 35 years to go out.. but yeah. The ground terminal broke off trying to remove it. I opened it up to see what was shaking around inside. It was rust particles!

$17 later, it's fixed. I doubt the new one will last 35 years.. but it's supposed to have a 'lifetime' warranty with O'Reillys. Stupid thing didn't even come with the nuts! I had to use the old ones.

Friday, May 10, 2013

30A hookup modification

The original design of the 30A electrical hookup left something to be desired. It had a hard wired 25ft(?) cable that had to be pulled out through the floor of the storage compartment. This made for a hard time trying to handle the cord when hooking and unhooking from power.

My solution is as follows. I cut the cable so that enough was left between the male 30A plug and the end so that it could be hard wired into the gang box. I used a ratcheting tubing cutter and it worked awesome on the very thick cable, giving a very clean cut. It's now just long enough to plug into the generator's outlet right next to it. I removed the original cable out of the gang box and fed in the "new" shorter cable and wired it up.

Using a female end extension cable, it can be plugged into the short mail pigtail I created without having to wrangle the entire length of a 25ft cable through the hole in the compartment floor as was the design.

An advantage to this is I can now get a non-hard wired surge protector and plug it in between the 30A extension cord and the short cable that is hard wired to the van, and it'll be protected from the elements, and out of sight from thieves.

I went on Amazon and bought an Arcon 18206 30-Amp Replacement Generator Power Receptacle and a Camco 55245 RV 30 AMP PowerGrip Replacement Plug so I can reuse the original cable.

It's comes out considerably cheaper than buying the special lock box for the surge protectors ($40) and a 25ft prefrab 30A extension cable ($55+) and makes everything easier, so I am happy with the mod.

Outside electrical outfit repair

The plastic (or is it particle board?!) gang boxes on the Xplorers tend to dry rot over the years, especially the outside one. A past owner attempted to "fix" it with a larger screw which only broke the box more. The box itself is pop riveted in and there's no way to get at it from behind, short of tearing into the wall from behind the sink!

I went down the road to a garage sale that is usually open every weekend and got a package of adapter plates meant for sheetrock and low voltage installation, such as phone lines. However, the way I have installed it, it is perfectly safe. You do need to drill through the adapter plate and into the body of the van so you can drive in sheet metal screws to hold the plate on. The plate has threaded holes that accepts standard outlet screws, so it repairs the outlet mounting situation that happens from the gang box threaded holes breaking.

I need to go back and replace the two wood screws I put in since I didn't have anymore sheet metal screws to fit. Also, I am going to replace the outlet itself and put in a new foam gasket, or two, if I can't find a single one that is extra thick like the original. I am also going to put a bit of silicone caulking around the edge of the adapter plate for extra protection against water seeping inside since it sits back from the body of the van a little due to the rivets holding the box in.

A: Damaged gang box
B: Holes drilled and sheet metal screws driven in
C: Threaded holes for standard electrical outlet screws

Needs caulking and new thick foam seal for outdoor outlets.

Reinstalled for demonstration purposes. A new outlet will be installed in the near future along with a new foam seal.

Old foam seal.

Caddy Fasteners Cat. No. MPLSBP adapter plates. I broke off the fold out mounting wings from the one I installed since they are not needed for this application.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New holding tank installed!

I got the new holding tank installed! The only thing I need to keep an eye on is the mounts and the outlet pipe. Installation went pretty smoothly. I had to make several trips to Lowe's to get ABS pipe fittings and a 2ft piece of 3" ABS pipe. Plus one trip each to two different RV shops for the Valterra parts (fittings, drain valve, caps). Tank, parts and all... set me back about $325-350. Not too bad really since I saved about $250+ in labor doing it myself.

For your viewing pleasure.. lots of photos from start to finish.

I drove one side of the van up onto Lynx Levelers to raise it up high enough to get the tank under the running boards. Worked like a charm.

Fresh new tank! (upside down)

2-1/4" hole cut in the tank and grommet installed. The way I figured out how to cut the hole was I installed the tank and marked the opening area through the floor on the tank with a sharpie, then took it back off and marked it with the grommet for a perfect circle, then marked a spot in the center of the perfect circle, drilled a small hole in the dot, then used the hole saw. It worked perfectly! Then I cleaned up the cut with sandpaper and installed the grommet. It took using a heat gun lightly on the grommet (a hair dryer would have also worked) to soften it and make it pliable enough to get the last 1/5 down in the tank since it's pretty rigid rubber when it's cold.

Closer photo of the grommet. As per the instructions, I sealed around it with 100% Silicone sealant. Regular silicone caulking might also work but this stuff is a little thicker.

Tank installed (with pipe grommet and inlet pipe on top going up through the floor).

Pipe coming from the bathroom sink and going to the new rubber 90 degree elbow (Fernco PQL150) then down to the pipe going into the tank grommet. Yes, you do see PVC between the elbow and tank grommet but at that time, I didn't think I needed to buy any 1-1/2" ABS, but I did. By then, I already had the tank installed. In order to change it, I would have to drop the tank to get at the clamp on the grommet sealing the pipe. It doesn't matter since it has the rubber grommet on the tank and the rubber elbow up top. You may also notice the coupler along the ABS pipe before the rubber elbow. I cut it back too far so rather than using another rubber coupler, I put a regular cemented ABS coupler and short piece of pipe. This setup allows the tank to be removed easily in the future and is superior to the original pipe that had a short reinforced coupler between the tank inlet pipe and an ABS 90 degree elbow.

New tank drain/outlet parts partly assembled and laid out. All the ABS was already assembled, just waiting to be permanently installed at this point.

Due to the design, the combined drain pipe from the galley sink and shower drain must tie in through a tree after the tank but before the drain valve, so that's what you see here. Even with the drain valve close, the tanks will empty into the tank.. from the bottom. They are higher than the water level in the tank (unless it gets so full it overflows..) so gravity and vacuum will do it's thing and fill the tank.

All assembled and ready to go! I drilled a couple of holes and used some "plumbers tape" (metal strapping to suspend pipes and duct work) to help secure the long drain pipe (10.5 inches) so it doesn't bounce around and break something. It's not visible, but I also and put in a piece of wood between the running board and pipe end fitting so it can't move as much. It's held in place by a couple of screws that were run through the running board and then into the piece of wood.

The two drain outlets: Grey water tank on the left and recirculating toilet on the right.. with tail pipe in the middle. I may add a tail pipe extension tip to put it out a bit further so it doesn't expel the exhaust on the toilet drain pipe as badly.

Further away view of the two drain outlets.